Today, the protests near the fence separating Gaza from Israel are reaching a peak, and along with them, so too has the number of people killed and injured by the Israeli military. Gisha reiterates that international law prohibits the use of lethal force against civilians unless they participate directly in acts of hostility or pose a concrete risk to life, and even then, only as a last resort and only to the extent necessary to alleviate the risk. Participation in a demonstration, even if it is not entirely peaceful and includes riots or disturbances, does not constitute an act of hostility or direct endangerment of life, in and of itself, that justifies the use of live fire.
Gaza residents suffer further deterioration of living conditions in the Strip this week, following the closing of its two major gateways to the outside world: Erez Crossing for movement of people and the commercial crossing Kerem Shalom. On Friday, May 11, a group of Palestinian protestors broke into the Palestinian side of Kerem Shalom Crossing and caused severe damage to facilities and equipment. Palestinian officials told Gisha that the control room, conveyor belt, and pipelines used to transport fuel and cooking gas to Gaza were set on fire by protestors. The crossing has been closed until further notice as a result. Meanwhile, Israel announced that Erez Crossing will be closed for two days, other than for “humanitarian exceptions.”
The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) warned that the acute fuel shortage in the Strip is already having an impact on residents. Gaza’s hospitals, water and sewage treatment services only have fuel in stock to last for a number of days. For at least a month, Gaza residents have relied exclusively on the supply of electricity purchased from and provided by Israel. The sole power plant in the Strip is out of commission, as are the power supply lines from Egypt. Consequently, most residents are receiving between two and four hours of power per day. Though Egypt facilitated the passage of goods into the Strip, mainly construction materials and fuel, through the Salah A-Din gate, Rafah Crossing does not have infrastructure in place to allow passage of cooking gas. Should Kerem Shalom remain closed, a deficit in cooking gas could get much worse.
The critical importance of Gaza’s crossings to the lives of residents cannot be over-emphasized. They are indispensable and have no substitute. Israel must immediately open Erez Crossing, and cooperate with the Palestinian Authority and the international community to repair Kerem Shalom Crossing and restore its operations in full, and make every effort to enable goods to pass through it until it returns to full capacity.
Gisha calls on Israel to open the crossings under its control and enable as much movement as possible through them.
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